Project Management for Entrepreneurs
I frequently act like a non-exec director, a project Manager, business coach and mentor. I work closely with a wide range of business organisations as a business advisor, including Growth Hubs and Chambers of Commerce. Additional to this, I am also a business coach for the Fearless Business Accelerator programme and an associate director for Inspire business organisation across the south west.
Heavily focussed around business strategy and project management principles, I work with a very wide and eclectic range of organisations including more than 100 start-ups last year and very varied SMES, from wedding planning, urban forestry, photography through to high value engineering companies, energy management, healthcare, ice cream, food, and a travel company to mention a few!
After recently working with a Cheltenham based accountancy practice, I have successfully developed a 40% increase in revenue for them in six months with an increase of 10% profitability through the PCH support Programme. From the initial evaluation development project list implemented, as well as numerous action lists and a classic project management of tasks to completion, the company is now on track to double its size in 12 months.
Project Management in a small business is distinctly different to large scale organisations. In large scale the discipline around systems and processes is taken for granted. Members of the project team operate to standard project management process steps, maybe a system with defined parameters language roles and responsibilities, clear scope budget and timescales.
In small scale projects in SMEs, project discipline and systems are very much less well established and a “by any means” attitude often is the controlling principle. The role of an owner as project manager is therefore much more expansive than a larger organisational project, but rarely do founders or owners have formal project management training or understand the discipline, which can be a big drawback.
Ideally the required project management skills consist of defining goals, setting strategy, devising a plan and outlining actions. Then weekly prioritising and tracking actions to completion. Separating operational/management/strategic meetings is then essential to assign and track actions to the team, along-side creating a development plan for the business against the agreed goals, using them as a filter and check….” If this thing does not help me achieve the goal why am I doing it?”
Business owners should be able to develop the business systems and processes that eventually can be rolled into a quality management system such as ISO9001:2015
Any business that sets goals and has a structured evaluative process to run the business, makes improvements, and take measures to improve, will have significantly higher chances of being successful, profitable and avoid the statistics that around 80% of SMEs fail inside 3 years. It simplifies the activities and breaks the path down into logical bite sized steps.
Many business owners have almost no management or leadership training let alone project management training. However, some of this is common sense at a basic level and most cope to some degree. More challenging is a business owner with an entrepreneurial business mindset, that often hates the rigid controlling nature of structure, management processes systems and project management tools, much preferring to flit from shiny opportunity to the next, focus is spread, too many projects are run in parallel, resources stretched and outputs often mediocre at best.
Entrepreneur led businesses can grow rapidly with the energy passion and enthusiasm of the founder but often without much planning. At the point the owner becomes operationally overwhelmed then growth stops, profits fall and the team suffers. This is typically around £500k — £1m turnover or 5–10 staff and this is often the point when the first cry for help to PCH is made.
PCH helps a business implement the business systems and processes. Along with the discipline and focus needed and gets the owner back to strategic where they add the most value.
For start ups and SMEs I show how structured project management and setting goals completely changes the way the business can and should be run. These sessions can be very powerful, spinning the proposition completely.
“Paul provided our business with an introduction to the fundamentals of business best practices, management and strategic leadership principles. It was a great opportunity to reflect on the direction of our business and nudge us in the right direction to help us achieve the vision for our business”
For larger companies more experienced business leaders often still don’t project manage well and would highly benefit from the skills.
I am often accused of being too evangelical about the engineering and project management approach to running a business, but in a discovery session the stunned look of a ‘mind blown’ owner when they actually get it is priceless.